For Erin Dougherty, a willingness to step outside of her comfort zone and never limit herself has opened doors.
The 26-year-old Dallas resident turned a chance encounter into a reoccurring job working for 3 Ball Entertainment as a production assistant on Spike TV’s “Bar Rescue,” which has a new season that premiered Feb. 19.
The hit reality show follows hospitality industry veteran and consultant Jon Taffer as he retools and renovates failing bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
Dougherty said she wasn’t always certain she’d like to pursue a career in television. In fact, she started her college experience taking classes geared toward working in the medical field.
After getting her general credits at Luzerne County Community College, she enrolled at Misericordia University, where, she said, she looked for fields that would accept her credits and stumbled upon communications.
“I like that communications is ever changing,” Dougherty said. “There are so many aspects of communication and multimedia. I started out as graphic design and still photography.”
Dougherty also had the opportunity to study journalism and videography among other disciplines.
“Misericordia did a very good job of giving you a little taste of everything,” she said. “It was cool to get a good background.”
While in school Dougherty waited tables at III Guys Pizza in Dallas where Neal Gallagher was a regular patron.
Gallagher, a Dallas resident, is a director of photography for “Bar Rescue” and has worked on other hit shows such as “The Biggest Loser” as both a camera operator and cinematographer.
Dougherty was taking a photography class and bringing her camera to work, which sparked conversation.
“Early on, I saw some of the photography work she was doing that was really very good,” Gallagher said. “Misericordia has a diverse program and Erin was involved in all of it. It was her enthusiasm and her willingness to participate in many things at once that made me think she had a lot of potential.”
Gallagher put Dougherty in touch with a supervising producer for “Bar Rescue,” and Dougherty was able to arrange to fly to Las Vegas in April to fill the show’s need for a production assistant.
Some of her travel costs were covered, but on the first trip her only payment was experience.
Dougherty was tasked with moving a lot of hardware and equipment, but she learned about many aspects of the production, including pre-production meetings, interviews and filming.
“I got to see so many different fields,” Dougherty said. “Not only camera and audio and lighting, but then there’s the art people: the design team, the graphics person. Everybody plays there own part and it’s cool to see the aspects come together.”
When she returned from her first trip, she kept the job in mind as something she could pursue if she was willing to travel.
“I realized there was so much more out there in the world that could be taken advantage of,” Dougherty said.
After graduating from Misericordia in December, Dougherty did freelance photography and graphic design while continuing to wait tables and tend bar, occassionally seeing Gallagher.
“He said, if you still want to do this, I can give you my boss’s number,” Dougherty said.
When Dougherty got her second opportunity in January, she had no budget for travel, but decided to pursue it anyway. This time, she was put to work at a greater capacity and got a paycheck.
“I was really observing and participating, and I was really involved this time,” Dougherty said. “Just meeting the genuine people who want to help you learn is exhilarating and fun.”
Dougherty said most people in the industry start as production assistants and pursue the aspect of the production that attracts them most.
“There’s a little of every field that’s grabbing me right now,” Dougherty said. “I really do enjoy graphic design, so I took a lot of interest in the graphic design aspect.”
Dougherty returned to Las Vegas for her third session as a production assistant on Feb. 10.